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'Worship through witness'

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 00:00
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which calls to mind Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This supreme sacrifice is commemorated in every Eucharistic celebration. However, we do not only honor Jesus’ redemptive self-offering ritually, but equally so ethically. We honor Jesus’ saving death both through sacramental worship and through the witness of our lives.

Sacramental. At the Last Supper, upon giving his disciples the bread and passing to them the cup of wine, Jesus instructs them, “Do this in memory of me.” In every Eucharistic celebration, we honor this memory of Jesus, particularly his sacrifice on the cross, the breaking of his body, the pouring of his blood, which the consecrated bread and wine signify.
Ethical. However, to “Do this in memory of me” also involves a moral dimension. We do not only honor Jesus’ saving death on the cross through rituals, but also through witness. To “Do this” entails living one’s life according to Jesus’ self-emptying. To “Do this in memory of [Jesus]” is to recognize that one is blessed and is to allow oneself to be broken and shared that others may have life to the full. To honor Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross does not only involve reenacting his sacrifice ritually; that is, making present this once-and-for-all sacrifice, but also reenacting his life of service to others and his fidelity to the Father existentially.

Thanksgiving. Literally, “eucharist” means thanksgiving. At Mass we give thanks to the Father for the gift of the Son and for his self-gift on the cross for our salvation. Outside the Mass, we continue the eucharist, we continue to give thanks to God through our lives of service and sacrifice. While the Eucharistic celebration begins around the table of the Lord, it continues out in the world through the witness of Christians to Christ’s self-emptying love.

Eucharistic Death. While Ignatius of Antioch was being brought to Rome for his trial and eventual execution, influential Christians begged him to allow them to intercede on his behalf so that he might be released. Bishop Ignatius replied, “I would rather be fed to the lions, my flesh and bones be torn apart, for in doing so I become more conformed to Jesus Christ.” Ignatius’ life and martyrdom became truly Eucharistic, his body broken, his blood spilled, nourishing the faith of the Early Church.

While most of us are not called to the self-sacrifice of martyrdom, all are called to the self-emptying of daily witnessing to Christ. All of us are called to worship the Lord through sacrament and the testimony of our lives.

Eucharistic Life. A young priest relayed to me the anger, the “sama ng loob” that he bore towards his mother as a boy. He and his siblings grew-up without their mother, seeing her infrequently. Only later on did he begin to appreciate her heroic love. She was a “stay-in” laundrywoman who could not bring her five children with her, who was deeply pained to have to entrust all her children to various relatives. Only by doing so was she able to send her children to school, one of whom is now a young priest. His mother, like Ignatius of Antioch, became truly Eucharistic in her daily offer of her life for the welfare of her children.

Congruence of Worship and Witness. As we celebrate the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, let us examine our lives: Do we honor Jesus’ selflessness and self-emptying on the cross every Sunday at Mass, but dishonor him by our selfishness and self-aggrandizement the rest of the week? Do we receive the consecrated bread and wine every Sunday, but desecrate the Eucharist by a corrupt way of life the rest of the week?

Now that we have elected a new set of national and local officials, let us pray that they become truly Eucharistic, that they recognize their blessed mission to serve our people, that they be willing to sacrifice themselves, be willing to be broken and be given out to our people. We pray also for all of us, that at this juncture of our history, blessed with a new opportunity for greatness, we might collectively sacrifice ourselves, permit ourselves to be broken out of love and charity, to be broken as the cost of confronting and correcting injustice, and to give ourselves selflessly to our nation that the last and the least among us might, at long last, have a fuller life.

Published: The Philippine Star

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